September 30, 2010
This calendar of action should scratch your angling itch for 2010. Get ready to tangle with some of the Magnolia State's toughest customers!
Brian Broom of Crystal Springs displays the kind of bluegill that Calling Panther Lake gives up in May.
Photo by Robert H. Cleveland Jr.
We can start and end the year in any corner of Mississippi. Along the way we can spend all 12 months fishing our way across the state with great expectations of catching fish at each stop.
In that respect, the Magnolia State stands second to no other. With our sister Southern states, we share first place because of our year-round fishing seasons. Reasonably mild winters make it so.
Can this be accomplished targeting one species? Sure.
But to truly realize just how good Mississippi fishing is, day in and day out, it's necessary to broaden your fishing horizocns, not only in where you fish but also the fish you chase.
To achieve that we offer the following fishing calendar, which provides a variety of species and quality experiences.
Largemouths: Lake Okhissa
In less than three years, this 1,200-acre lake on U.S. Forest Service land in southwest Mississippi near Bude has become a must-visit destination.
Okhissa offers great bream and catfish action, but it is bass that lures most fishermen. Because of its varied depths and habitats, it is a lake for all seasons, including the dead of winter.
In January, bass naturally relate to cover in deep water, and at Okhissa, it is plentiful. The key is finding the right areas, and that means finding the main creek channel on the upper end, or one of the feeders running in from coves. Drop-shot and shaky-head worm rigs are excellent choices on cold days fishing the edges of the channels in bends close to point.
Finding big schools of bass is not uncommon on these patterns, with catches of up to 15 or 20 bass in one bend. It is also common to find them in 22 to 25 feet of water.
Other choices: Similar deep cover makes Lake Bill Waller near Columbia a great January bass destination. But on Waller, bass move up on shallow cover on warm days.
The Jordan, Biloxi and Pascagoula rivers are winter homes to speckled trout. Finding deep troughs near shallow points should produce fish.
Crappie: Lake Chotard
Big slab crappie in winter? You bet. Over the past two decades with the improvements in fish-finding electronics and crappie trolling rigs, fishermen have found the key to catching cold-water crappie on oxbow lakes. Chotard, just north of Vicksburg, is one of the best.
No matter what the river level, or whether it's rising or falling, crappie can be caught. Trolling deep with multiple poles, each with three minnows set a foot apart beginning a foot above a half-ounce weight is the pattern. But it is based on using electronics to locate big schools of suspended fish around balls of shad.
Be prepared to troll as deep as 30 feet and as shallow as 12 feet. Crappie change their depth regularly with changing water conditions.
Other choices: Bass fishing at Lake Lincoln State Park near Wesson is hot this month. Fishing is good around the many brushpiles adjacent to deep water on the opposite side of the lake from the boat launch.
The pre-spawn in February makes Ross Barnett Reservoir a good choice for crappie. When the big slabs start moving up on the shore, trolling becomes the preferred method.
Largemouth Bass: Eagle Lake
A Florida-strain bass restocking program in its fourth year at this old oxbow lake north of Vicksburg has accomplished its goal. Eagle Lake is back as one of Mississippi's must-visit destinations.
March is a peak time at Eagle — though it carries over into April — as bass move up on the pre-spawn pattern. They flock to shallow timber, males first to build beds. When the smaller buck bass are shallow, the bigger females are usually found on the outer edges of timber, in slightly deeper water. Spinnerbaits, lizards and jig-and-pigs are all good choices.
There's one big lily pad field past the entrance to Buck Chute on the east end of the lake, which is dynamite in late March for a Rat-L-Trap or spinnerbait.
Other choices: White bass are active at the upper end of Enid Lake. They can be readily caught on a variety of lures: smaller spinnerbaits, grubs on jigheads, crankbaits.
For some of the first spawning crappie action, 700-acre Lake Tangipahoa has crappie in the baby-making mood. The upper end of the lake and its coves are places to look, as are any shallow brushpiles scattered around the lake.
Crappie: Lake Washington
Crappie are spawning all over Mississippi, but Lake Washington is high on the list of good destinations. It's an old oxbow lake located in downtown Glen Alan in southern Washington County.
It is a great crappie lake for trollers, even during the spawn. But don't let this cypress-lined lake fool you. Crappie do not spawn on shallow structure. Though some move up on the cypress, most do not. There are far more fish caught in open water within 20 yards of the tree line.
Trolling or drifting with crappie jigs or minnows off the tree line can produce a limit of slab crappie.
Other choices: Crappie also are biting on Ross Barnett Reservoir. The 33,000-acre lake near Jackson remains the state's most consistent producer either in the massive stumpfields or flooded grass.
At Trace State Park, the redear sunfish are spawning. You will see the shellcracker beds in the coves.
Bluegills: Calling Panther Lake
Calling Panther Lake is noted for bass, but it's an even better bluegill producer. It's loaded with pound-plus bream and on the May full moon they give themselves up willingly to crickets.
Finding them isn't hard. Shallow gravel beds were built during the lake's construction and are plentiful. Maps are available to find the gravel, and the best beds are those located on main-lake points or along old roadbeds.
Other choices: Pickwick Lake in the northeast corner of the state is
best known as a smallmouth bass destination, but its best fishing is without doubt its channel catfish. They are plentiful, and in May, they move up on the bluff banks to spawn on the rocks. Night crawlers are deadly.
Sardis Lake is this month's best bet for bass. The fish are moving out onto the main-lake points.
Bluegills: Okhissa LakeWhen the U.S. Forest Service designed this 1,500-acre lake with more than 31 miles of shoreline, they had bream fishermen in mind. They built over 600 permanent wood-framed gravel beds that serve as spawning grounds for bluegills. The fish found them and use them.
In the lake's clear waters, the gravel can be easily spotted and veteran panfishermen take note that each bed was placed with a purpose. They were built where bream would want to bed. Filling an ice chest is easy on the full and new moons in June.
Other choices: Old standbys, but mostly overlooked, are Mississippi River white bass and June is a great month. The fish move up into connected oxbows onto gravel and sand bars.
Barnett Reservoir is overlooked as a channel catfish hole. In June, juggers do well on the river, upper main lake and Pelahatchie Bay, but some of the best action is tight-lining with cut or live bait for 1- to 4-pound channel cats.
Striped Bass: Barnett Reservoir
If 2009 is any indication, then the striped bass stocking program on Barnett Reservoir is working. Stripers went nuts throughout the month until the summer heat surprisingly disappeared in the middle of the month. Before then, limits of six per person over 15 inches were easy and often totaled 60 to 75 pounds.
The key is finding steep drops falling from 10 or 12 feet into 30 feet of water, which means locating old lake beds on the edge of shallow flats. Finding isolated timber or other cover on the edge of that drop is a must.
Then it's just a matter of trolling the edges with Bandit 200s or 300s, or marking the cover and throwing deeper crankbaits.
Other choices: Down on the Gulf coast, big black drums move up into Biloxi Bay and feed shallow on a falling tide.
Power generation at Pickwick Lake dam to run July air conditioning adds current to the lake. That puts smallmouth bass into a feeding frenzy on deep humps along the river channel
Longnose Gar: Tallahatchie River
Fishing doesn't get much more offbeat than this, nor as much fun. Gar averaging 20 pounds are plentiful below Sardis Lake. They go crazy feeding on the forage fish pulled through the gates and can be seen rolling and gulping on the surface.
Find areas with a lot of surface activity and the action can be non-stop. The lure of choice is frayed, combed-out stretches of nylon rope. No hook is needed. The frayed rope acts like Velcro. Gar bite it, get it caught in their teeth and can't get loose.
Bring extra long needle-nose pliers to get lures loose.
Other choices: The bull redfish action peaks this month around the barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico.
If you've never tried jugging for blue catfish on the Mississippi River, make this the year. Catch your own bait, casting for skipjack shad on ultralight gear and jigs to make the day even more fun.
Crappie: Grenada Lake
We didn't send you to this crappie hotspot during the spring spawn because of the crowded waters and inconsistent weather. Instead, try a late summer trip to Grenada. Instead of jigs or minnows, take light trolling tackle and some Bandit 200 and 300 crankbaits.
Start by trolling the main-lake points in 20 to 30 feet of water, or along the edges of creek channels. Getting a limit of slabs shouldn't take long once you find a hotspot.
Other choices: Letting a year go by without a trip to Bay Springs Lake for spotted bass would be a mistake. In early September, work the deep points with worms. Later, after the first cool snap, move up on those points with crankbaits, shaky heads and spinnerbaits.
September is a peak period for bass on deep-water structure on the lower half of Barnett Reservoir.
Spotted Bass: Barnett Reservoir
We'll stay on Barnett Reservoir, but move up the lake into the upper river area and start targeting spotted bass. When lake officials start lowering the level toward winter pool, it creates current in the river, which coincides with the annual shad migration up the river.
That creates great fishing action for spotted bass. The feisty fish gang up on sandbar points.
Other choices: Delta oxbow bass fishing peaks in the fall. Crankbaits on steep banks work in the Mississippi River oxbows.
For a change of pace, go back to Calling Panther Lake and tight line on the bottom with night crawlers for big bluegills.
Largemouths: Eagle Lake
This is a second month for this to be our top choice, but it's deserving.
Bass move up on the cypress trees in November, especially isolated trees with a big root patterns. You need to be able to skip jigs and spinnerbaits under overhanging limbs.
Another good pattern is fishing the cover around piers with worms and jigs.
Other Choices: Less than five miles from Eagle, more outstanding bass action awaits. Albermarle is an oxbow that offers great bass fishing, beginning with topwater lures around springs and ends with deep cranking on steep banks.
Lake Okhissa has channel catfish on the points this month. Use night crawlers and fish 8 to 12 feet deep to find them.
Bluegills: Bailey200-/ Lake Jeff Davis
Our year winds down, but not without some fireworks and a surprise. Our top pick is out of the ordinary, but until you've fished deep for bluegills in the winter at Lake Jeff Davis near Prentiss, don't discount it.
Take worms and ultralight spinning gear and fish water 8 to 12 feet deep next to deeper water. Be patient, but be ready. Jeff Davis is loaded with big bluegills and big redears. On any cast you could get the bream of a lifetime.
Other choices: Calling Panther Lake is a great bass destination and December is a peak period. Crankbaits fished on points and jerkbaits tossed along the dam work.
For winter crappie, go to Lake Chotard. Use electronics to find suspended schools and troll through them.